JUSTICE LEAGUE: TRINITY WAR | ‘New to Comics’ Breakdown

New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books; explaining, reviewing, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. 

We’ve made it to Trinity War, the big crossover between Justice LeagueJustice League of America and Justice League Dark. What brings these characters to conflict? Who comes out on top? Does it live up to expectations? Read on and find out. 

Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemiere, Ray Fawkes & J.M. DeMatteis, 
Art by: Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Mikel Janín, Renato Guedes, Fernando Blanco, Zander Cannon, Daniel Sampere & Patrick Zircher
Year: 2013
Collects: Justice League #22-23Justice League of America #6-7Justice League Dark #22-23, Constantine #5Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #11 Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1-3


Right, this one’s going to take some explaining, because it’s not new reader-friendly in the slightest. 

This comic is so jam-packed with heroes and writers that even covering just the basics is in itself a somewhat daunting task. 

First off, there’s the multiple Justice Leagues. 

The main Justice League is obviously the one we’ve been following. The one everyone knows. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest. 

In the New 52 reboot, however, these characters don’t have the decades of trust built up that they used to, so over in the pages of Justice League of America, a new Justice League is formed by Steve Trevor (the man who found Themyscira and brought Wonder Woman into the world) and Amanda Waller (the director of the Suicide Squad). Their team consists of people who are counterparts to the heroes of the main league, in the event they ever need to take them down. Their team consists of shape-shifting telepath Martian Manhunter, archer Green Arrow, winged warrior Hawkman, the new Green Lantern, power-staff-wielding Stargirl, swordswoman Katana, shock-wave generating Vibe and thief Catwoman

But prior to their arrival, there were already other Leagues in play. There was the Justice League International, whose name is fairly self-explanatory. Their comic was cancelled pretty early on. 

There was also the Justice League Dark, the third team to feature in this comic. They were less of a conventional League. Lead by the magical con-man John Constantine, these were heroes who had come together to combat occult threats, due to it generally being a bit more than the regular Justice League could handle. Less of a team, and more of an alliance, alongside Constantine, their line-up consists of fortune-teller Madame Xanadu, ghost Deadman, super-agent Black Orchid and Frankenstein’s monster. 

Already, that’s a fairly sizeable cast of important characters. 

But there’s more!

One of the driving forces behind this story is the concept of the ‘Trinity of Sin’. Another thing introduced in the New 52, the ‘Trinity of Sin’ tied together with classic DC characters The Phantom Stranger and The Question, along with the mythological figure Pandora. The three were tried thousands of years ago for their respective crimes and made immortal so they could see their punishment unfold. 

Pandora‘s crime is obvious. She opened Pandora’s Box and unleashed evil into the world. In these comics ‘evil’ is the manifestation of the Seven Deadly Sins, as seen in Shazam: Origins and Shazam! the movie (although the movie version is less interesting). 

The Phantom Stranger is a character first introduced in the 1950s as a supernatural guide and occult specialist. As his name would suggest, his identity was unknown. However, in tying him into the ‘Trinity of Sin’, in the New 52 continuity he was revealed to be Judas, and his crime was betraying Jesus. 

The Question, in the old continuity, was a detective who used a mask that obscured all facial features and could, in turn, mimic the appearances of other people. He went by the name Vic Sage, although his real name was Charles Szasz. In the New 52 continuity, he is an unknown person punished for an unknown crime alongside Pandora and the Phantom Stranger, although his punishment is that he loses his face and identity. He’s also the basis for the character Rorschach, in Watchmen. And I suppose, by extension, Looking Glass

In the pages of Justice League of America up until this point, the JLA has been combating a group called the Secret Society (of Supervillains). 




Real Name: John Constantine
The Justice League Dark
First Appearance: The Saga of Swamp-Thing #37 (June 1985)

Born in Liverpool (England), John Constantine learned his first spell as a child, which resulted in the accidental sacrifice of his parents and the destruction of his house. After his carefree teen years, John felt compelled to travel across the world and learn more about sorcery. In his travels, Constantine gained a wide network of contacts and had several relationships with men and women along the way, such as famed sorcerer Nick Necro, and Nick’s former girlfriend and superhero-to-be, Zatanna. After John caused the death of Zatanna father, she cast a spell on him commanding him to be a better person. Confident in his abilities, the world-weary Constantine became an occult detective, infamous for his foul-mouth, cynical attitude and chain-smoking. Frequently allied with the likes of Swamp-Thing and Zatana, this mystical con-man has become well known in the colourful world of superheroics alongside his teammates in the Justice League Dark


After Shazam enters the closed-off country of Kandhaq to scatter his enemy, Black Adam’s, ashes in his homeland, the Justice League intervene to bring him home and avoid a conflict with the local army. In turn, Steve Trevor and his JLA are brought in to bring home the Justice League and avoid an international incident. 

But when conflict breaks out, and Superman kills JLA member Doctor Light, all bets are off as the Justice Leagues fracture and a race to find out the cause of Superman’s outburst ensues. 


If I’m honest with you, I didn’t really like this comic that much. 

I’ve read parts of it before – specifically, the Justice League/JLA/JLD stuff, without all the extraneous details, and while I think I thought it was alright, I recall thinking that there was definitely stuff missing. 

Because there was; the connecting pieces from ConstantineThe Phantom Stranger and Pandora

Fortunately, they all come together in the collected edition of Trinity War. And unfortunately, they make the story worse. 

First off, having this many writers working on one story can either go really well or just end up being a mess. Personally, I think this is more the latter. Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemiere more or less have things down with the three Justice League books, but as soon as you enter tie-in territory, things start to get a bit garbled, as the focus is no longer always on the Trinity War. I’m not even really blaming the writers of those books for this. They’re working on PandoraStranger and Constantine respectively. They want to tell their stories about those characters. As tie-ins, they don’t have to make sure everything works to progress the story to anyone reading the general crossover. 

Except for the fact that their works being included in this collection means that their chapters completely break the flow of the story. The stories they’re telling are vital because the characters reference them as major moments in the main series, but it’s just so jarring to completely change writer, artist, focus and sometimes story every twenty or so pages. 

The whole story is just meandering through different ideas the various writers decide they want to play with, with a reasonably strong and focused opening, and a final chapter that shows some promise.

If this was just a battle between the Justice League and the Justice League of America, with the Justice League Dark thrown in for good measure, then it could be alright. But since the story is more concerned with the nature of evil and Pandora’s box, it has too much to juggle even with its hefty page count. 

And on top of all of that, in the end, it turns out that Trinity War, this big thing they’ve been building to, is actually just set-up for another crossover. So the heavy meandering just feels even more pointless. Thankfully, the story it’s all setting up shows a lot more promise. 

But still, that Mikel Janín art from the pages of Justice League Dark… *chefs kiss* (two above)


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